Is every fanbase as odd as that of the Detroit Tigers? I find myself pondering that question on a near-daily basis.
One aspect that I can’t wrap my booze-ravaged mind around is the frequent fascination many Tigers fans have with terrible baseball players. Each season a weird cult develops around some subpar guy we have wasting a roster spot and I sit here with a bewildered look on my face and a constant urge to type the F word over and over. Longtime readers may be familiar with such thought-provoking essays of mine.
In the past week, a couple of these kind of guys were in the news. Don Kelly was named the 2013 “Heart & Hustle” award winner for the Tigers. Why? Who has more heart and hustle than Miguel Cabrera? Max Scherzer is the only other guy I can think of that would be in his league, especially with what he has overcome in the past calendar year. But Kelly? Why him? Because he’s nice and tries hard? So do the majority of big leaguers. Why not pick a good one like the Pirates did with Andrew McCutchen or the Rangers did with Adrian Beltre?
Then, the Yankees cut ties with mouth-breathing right fielder, Brennan Boesch. I saw many in the Detroit fanbase saying we should bring him back. Again, after pounding my head against a wall for a half hour, I ask why? He’s terrible! But he’s got his weird gaggle of fangirls wearing his shirseys at the CoPa asking how many points the Tigers get for a double. He’s not THAT cute, ladies.
This got me to thinking if I could field an entire team of these gritty, overrated, scrappy gamers that a healthy portion of the Tiger faithful idolize and make excuses for. To my surprise, I was able to make a starting nine with members from just the 2012 and 2013 teams. No wonder we can’t ever seem to pull away in the Central.
Catcher: Gerald Laird (Career OPS+ of 76)
I saw many moaning and groaning when Laird went to the Braves after the 2012 season because he hit .282 in limited playing time last year. Never mind that his previous high with Detroit was .225. Never mind that he went 1 for 20 in the 2012 Playoffs. Never mind that he went 0 for 5 with 2 K’s and 5 runners left in scoring position in the infamous Game 163. “He’s such a funny guy”, Rod and Mario would tell us. So is Louis CK. But I wouldn’t want him playing for the Tigers, either. The next time Alex Avila screws up and someone around you says we should have kept Laird, punch them in the crotch repeatedly until the cops show up.
First Base: Don Kelly (Career OPS+ of 74)
My hatred of Kelly’s existence on the team is well known by now. Every time he doesn’t mess up on the field, I’m flooded with mentions on Twitter about it. Thankfully, it doesn’t happen often. I’m followed by at least three different Kelly parody accounts. I’ve heard from umpires, sportswriters, and members of the Tigers telling me to lighten up on DK since he’s such a swell guy. Well, good for him. Let him run for office and do some good for the country. He sure isn’t helping my baseball team by weakly grounding out to second in 8 of every 10 at bats.
Second Base: Danny Worth (Career OPS+ of 71)
Whoa! Put that erection of yours away, Lynn Henning. You could put an eye out. For years, we’ve heard how Worth was ready to take over at second or short for the Tigers. His glove is amazing! His hitting is coming around! Henning, especially, raved about Worth’s game. And many Tigers fans bought into it. Where is Danny now? Still in Toledo. Hitting .225 for the Mud Hens. Getting passed over for a MLB spot by Double A prospect Hernan Perez, who is clearly not ready for prime time yet. Worth is Cale Iorg’s long-lost brother with a Leno chin.
Shortstop: Ramon Santiago (Career OPS+ of 73)
He can’t hit. He can’t field. He can’t run. And he makes $2.1 million to give Miguel Cabrera high-fives in the dugout. When Jhonny Peralta’s contract was up, I read several fans posting at BYB and other places how Santiago should take over at shortstop. They said Ramon deserved the chance and would flourish with more playing time. Look, kids. There’s a reason he’s been a backup for over a decade. He’s awful. And he’s seemingly getting worse every day.
Third Base: Brandon Inge (Career OPS+ of 82)
Brandon Inge is the cut that never seems to heal. His every move is tracked breathlessly by the Detroit media, even now, as he’s on his second team since the Tigers cut ties with him. Never in my life have I seen such a mediocre player get the coverage and adoration of the media and fanbase that Inge got in Detroit. He’s the closest thing the Tigers will ever have to Tim Tebow. Make it stop. Us sane fans would like some peace, for crying out loud.
Left Field: Clete Thomas (Career OPS+ of 85)
Man, people loved Clete when he came up. I didn’t get it then and I don’t get it now. Tigers fans have a fetish for left-handed, white, corner outfielders, I guess. No wonder they’ve been so patient with Dirks’ struggles this season. But Clete had a section of “Clete’s Cougars” devoted to him in the crowd. And even “Uncle” Ian, Kurt’s predecessor at BYB, bought into it with his “Clete’s Cult” nonsense he had going on over there for a while. Dark days, they were. (Sorry, Ian.)
Center Field: Quintin Berry (Career OPS+ of 85)
At the only Tigers game I’ve made it out to this year, a fan a few rows up from me kept holding up a sign that said “Free Berry”. The Tigers did just that, releasing him a few days later. People went nuts for this guy last year. Why? Because he was fast? I admit to have liked him for his speed and tried making a case for him to be on the team over Kelly as a pinch runner. But no. People love his FIRE, his SPARK, his…clapping? The facts are that Berry was below average in every facet of the game, other than the whole speed thing. And he’s not improving. Playing for two Triple A teams in 2013, he’s hit a combined .193 in 249 at bats. Berry sucks. Face it.
Right Field: Brennan Boesch (Career OPS+ of 97)
I admit, the guy had me fooled when he came up. I thought we maybe had the next Kirk Gibson in how he started. But his swing got longer and longer. His outfield routes got worse and worse. And his fanbase grew and grew! Boesch shirseys were everywhere in the girls-with-low-self-esteem portion of the CoPa faithful. When the Yanks released him and I read some reactions, I made a comment on Twitter being amazed that some Tigers fans wanted him back. The only reasoning I received for re-signing him was how attractive he supposedly is. C’mon, kids. You can do better.
Pitcher: Rick Porcello (Career ERA+ of 93)
Now HERE’S a handsome guy! He’s also not very good. Yes, he’s still only 24. Yes, he still has time to figure it out. But this is his fifth full season in the big leagues. The lowest ERA he’s posted since his promising rookie season was last year’s 4.59 when he led the league in hits allowed. Every year, people pick him as the biggest breakthrough candidate on the team. And every year people make excuses when he fails. The facts are that he still doesn’t have a strikeout pitch and still seems to lack the stamina that a MLB starting pitcher, especially one making $5M+, needs to have and be successful. Yet people still love him in Detroit. Well, that or they have an insane, fictional inflated trade value for the guy. PORCELLO FOR STANTON!!! Not gonna happen. He’s just not that good.
There’s your all-(s)crappy team. Kinda sad, isn’t it? Or maybe not, if you’re the kind of person that sees the good in everyone. It happens to the best of us, sometimes.
I am Ryan Raburn’s only fan, after all.